God is an Astronaut at the Academy, Dublin, 26th October, 2013
They may have more recognition abroad than at home, but when post-rock instrumentalists God is an Astronaut dropped in on Dublin to play a homecoming show in the middle of their current European tour in the Academy on Saturday night, a core selection of their Irish fanbase was there to welcome them.
Since they delivered their first album of space-rock soundscapes ‘The End of the Beginning’ in 2002, the band have become known for their blend of sound and vision, with self-produced footage and artwork projected during the gig, with a different visual for each song. Although God is an Astronaut brought an impressive array of lighting with them to their Academy show, the trademark visuals were notably absent.
Not that this really mattered. Even stripped back to its bare basics, God is an Astronaut’s infinitely complex yet cosmically melodic sound was more than enough to carry a show without any visual aids.
Always a band to encourage collaboration and cooperation on the Irish music scene, God is an Astronaut gave newcomers Xenon Field a chance to make their debut to a big audience with the supporting slot. A band very much cut from the God is an Astronaut cloth Xenon Field’s own custom electronic instrumental rock was just the right mood setter for what was to come.
With the mood set, God is an Astronaut made their entrance with a gargantuan surge of sound. The Academy shook in a virtual haze of distortion and an ear-drum bursting swell of noise that ululated and crackled like a broken robot. Gradually a melody began to build, not over the distortion but rather it came up from within it, filling in the rhythmic gaps until suddenly there was a song where before there was only noise.
The band deftly shaped the fuzz of feedback into the opening of Weightless, the first of many songs taken form the band’s new album ‘Origins’. With the layers of sound seemingly all tripping over each other in the haste to be heard at once, it was almost impossible to judge how exactly the band were manipulating these sounds, yet there was a grain of order embedded in that seemingly chaotic soundscape.
The show mostly alternated between new material and old familiars, with All Is Violent, All Is Bright and Echoes striking a chord with the fans. The midpoint of the show was mostly dominated by newer material, and like all of their albums, the ‘Origins’ tracks all followed a single distinct pattern. In this case it included the addition of abstract vocals.
As well as this the songs were generally more up tempo, with some flashy experimentation into electronica particularly evident on the opening of Spiral Code. This didn’t really ring true with an audience more interested on grooving on melodic soundscapes, and the show teetered on the edge of losing its way, only regaining its true flow when the band veered back into older material for the show’s climax.
Like a boulder rolling down a hill, the show progressed from the glacial pace of its opening to an unstoppable unleash of velocity at its finish. Having built up the momentum of a freight train God is An Astronaut powered into Fire Flies and Empty Skies. After allowing a momentary silence to fall during the encore break the band burst back on the stage and brought the boulder of sound crashing down with Suicide by Star and Route 666.
But even when the show reached its most explosive, there was always an element of precision control. There was the pervading sensation that not even a single note, no matter how dissonant or distorted, occurred without the specific intention of the musician playing it. And the result is music that sweeps the listener up into new worlds of sound, spitting you out at the other side with ringing ears and a sense of cosmic oneness.
God Is an Astronaut Photo Gallery
Photos: Shaun Neary